Friday, 23 December 2011

Путин and il Cavaliere.

The Cult of the Strong Man.

Putin and Berlusconi have more in common than we might assume at first. The pair of them are thoroughly reactionary, the latter standing for a combination of liberal technocracy and right-wing populism while the former stands on a ruthless oligarchy and the tide of Russian nationalism. At the apex where ultra-politics (nationalist populism) converge with anti-politics (small state liberalism) Berlusconi managed to hold his balance for on-and-off 17 years. But the same can be said of Putin in Russia for the last decade, albeit in a more refined form of authoritarianism and on a much larger scale. The total cynicism with which this pair have governed may have no other match in this day and age. Putin was shameless when he announced he would be running for the Presidency once again, he openly admitted the arrangement he had forged with Medvedev. The two of them agreed, many years ago, to take turns running the state as President and Prime Minister. It is almost as though there is no need for illusions and facades, the erosion of democracy is bluntly acknowledged in public life.

The pair of them are creatures of the supposedly post-political age which holds us hostage. It was the fall of the Berlin Wall which set the wheels in motion to elevate Putin and Berlusconi to high office. Both of them have been active in the reduction of politics to a mere spectacle, which is not engaged in and no one really cares about. The cynicism takes a postmodern turn as Berlusconi became a parody of the cynical opportunist and self-serving scum-bag. The same can be said of Putin's particular brand of permissive nationalism, freedom from constraint joined with the strong-arm of the state. The crackpot populism of Berlusconi collides with technocratic liberalism, effectively it's rule-by-bankers and the only opposition comes from the immigrant-loving Communists who have infiltrated the Establishment. The same can be said of the criminal state in Russia which has exiled the oligarchs not aligned with Putin's inner circle. The only opposition permitted within Russia comes from crypto-fascists to which Putin stands in balance with the Russian oligarchy.

When Communism fell apart Boris Yeltsin destroyed civil society with economic reforms, Putin emerged at the end of the decade as the strong-man with the answer to Russia's illth. Once the Cold War ended then the Americans withdrew support for right-wing campaigns against the Italian Communist Party as it disintegrated, but then an enormous corruption scandal obliterated the major parties. As the dust settled Berlusconi emerged from the rubble with a political party named after a football team, it was composed of disillusioned liberals and self-described "post-Fascists". For a long time it looked as though the age of Berlusconi may only end with his death in public office. Thankfully the forces within the government converged amidst the economic crisis with popular discontent and Berlusconi was forced from office. Now we can see protests in Russia over the rigged elections, it would seem that the Russians are not simply barbarians who do not care for democracy and would leave Putin's gang to run amok in Moscow.

Good Riddance.

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